BANK OF MESOPOTAMIA
This year Turkey has been repeatedly protesting against Israel’s alleged purchasing of oil fields from the Kurdish groups in northern Iraq. Back in October Israeli Ambassador to Turkey, Pini Avivi, was asked to convey Turkey’s concern and call on Israel to bring such purchases to an end.
Israel responded by helping to create and then provide large sums of money to the Kurdish Credit Bank, a joint venture of two rival Kurdish leaders Massoud Barazani and Jalal Talabani. And we wondered if every penny of the oil-for-food program was truly invested for the welfare of the Iraqi people. Ever since the munificence of the Jewish investors, our Kurdish neighbors in the North have been happily purchasing the land they could not seize from us or the Turkemans durng Saddam’s days. Inch by inch, the ancient land of Assyria is being purchased by the Kurds, a transaction financed by the Jewish investors in Israel.
Now the Turkish government is responding to the Kurdish Credit Bank’s granting of loans to Kurdish people by – you guessed it - opening a branch of its state-owned Ziraat Bank in northern Iraq.
Investment in northern Iraq and the rest of that country is a necessary step to discourage emigration of the Christian population. Iraq is now an open market for business and investment opportunities. The first step to the development of an aggressively active free market economy is an increase in money supply and investment. As long as the Kurdish Credit Bank and Ziraat Bank offer the same incentives and loan programs to all citizens of Iraq, the Assyrian people can take advantage of this equal opportunity and begin investing in their ancestral land. But why not invest by acquiring such loans from a Chaldean-Assyrian Bank instead?
In the period after the liberation of Iraq the most important element in the survival of the Assyrian people is the equivocal acceptance of a common purpose. Assyrians (Nestorians, Chaldeans, & Syriacs) must take the first step to rebuild Iraq by investing in its future. In the first phase of this process Assyrians from every nation outside of Iraq must adopt an economic program to 1) establish an “Assyrian” bank 2) help Assyrian-Iraqis purchase land 3) offer business loans to individuals who thirst for financial independence and growth.
In the North, the Kurdish parties have already embraced such economic realities, and now the Turkemans. What matters who invests how much in whose coffers? What is of essence is that the vicious cycle of dependency on one’s neighbor’s charity ought to be broken. Once and for all times to come.
The capital requirements to start a bank in Iraq cannot possibly be more than that in the United States. In fact there may not even be any official capital requirements. In New York for example to establish a bank one must have a minimum of $10 million, or in some rural vicinities as low as one million dollars.
The initial charter of this bank – call it ‘Bank of Mesopotamia’ - can be organized by a group of Chaldean-Assyrian investors from the Western States and other Arab nations. A minimum of up to 20 percent of the capital requirement would be invested by this charter group or directors. The remainder of the bank’s holdings can be sold to shareholders – thousands of Assyrians like readers of this magazine who would gladly spend their charity contributions toward the rebuilding of Iraq and the Assyrian territories in the north. If this bank requires even greater capital, then our entrepreneurs in Iraq and in the Diaspora can contact Massoud and Jalal’s friends in Tel Aviv. Ankara has an even more politically-motivated and somewhat moral responsibility to invest in the future of the Christian population of the Mosul district. In two words: European Union.
A nation cannot be built on charity and volunteer work. Our solitary efforts within our moribund federations, alliances and congresses will lead us to one point in history alone: another genocide. This time rather than being massacred by guns and swords we will be assimilated within our more affluent neighbors that may despise us, but will continue to shake our hands at every possible photo opportunity. Such is the funny business of politics.
Assyians in Iraq no longer suffer from a leadership vacuum. In
the Assyrian Democratic Movement in Iraq and His Honorable Yonadam
Kanna’s leadership we can begin a new political and economic
agenda in our homeland. It is time that we move to a new direction
– away from donations and toward a prudent financial goal
that begins with strategic investments and perpetual economic
MAR EMMANUEL III
Zinda Magazine congratulates the more than one and half million Chaldean Catholics around the world on the election of the new Patriarch of the Church of Babylon, Mar Emmanuel III Delly. His Beatitude was consecrated last Wednesday in Vatican in the presence of his fellow Chaldean bishops and Pope John Paul II.
The Chaldo-Assyrian people expect the new patriarch Mar Emanuel III to be the spiritual leader that will labor hard for the preservation of the Chaldean-Assyrian heritage and the promotion of our cultural identity within the Chaldean Church.
The Chaldo-Assyrian people also ask Mar Emanuel III to continue the unity work that the Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church have for the last 15 years endeared through much hardship, not only in the diaspora, but also in Iraq. Our people need to have an enhanced sense of unity and solidarity to encounter all attempts at separating our Churches and people.
Finally the Chaldo-Assyrian people hope that the new patriarch will continue the liturgical reform in the Chaldean Church and the restoration of the usage of the Syriac (Aramaic) language in the liturgy of this Church so that all obstacles between our Churches are abridged with love and harmony.
Mar Emanuel is a capable leader and a brilliant scholar. Albeit, at the age of 76 his patriarchate will be relatively short. His Beatitude must act quickly to bring greater understanding, love, and hope during this transitional period in the history of our people – most importantly the Chaldo-Assyrian faithful in our homeland of Bet-Nahrain.
THE ASSYRIAN TEST OF PLURALISM IN IRAQ
Although Iraq's future remains uncertain, it can be said at least that the long Ba'athist nightmare is now over. Moderate and secular Islamic voices now have an opportunity to foster a new pluralistic political system which simultaneously acknowledges the fact that Iraq's population is overwhelmingly Muslim and guarantees Christians the same legal and religious rights as the majority. Such a move would go a long way toward helping democratize Iraqi society and could prove to be an important turning point in Muslim-Christian relations.
A pluralistic political system is particularly important for letting flourish Iraqi minority communities, such as the 1.5 million Assyrian Christians, a Semitic, Aramaic-speaking community indigenous to Mesopotamia. As captured Iraqi intelligence documents clearly show, the Assyrians were ruthlessly suppressed by Saddam Hussein's regime. They were subject to religious persecution, particularly during the Iran-Iraq war. Assyrians were denied the most basic of rights in Saddam's Iraq; indeed, they were not even allowed to speak their own language, familiar to Jews as the language of the Talmud.
It was thus no surprise that many Assyrian exiles, particularly in the United States, championed the American-led effort to overthrow the Ba'ath regime and remain deeply appreciative for the opportunity to build a better Iraq. Late last year, President Bush invoked the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998 and designated the Assyrian Democratic Movement, a political party now represented on the Iraqi Governing Council, as an officially recognized opposition movement eligible for American assistance. Ronald Michael of Chicago, president of the Assyrian-American League, remains optimistic that "the final result will have been well worth it."
While Assyrians are pleased to have seen the fall of Saddam's regime, they realize that there are difficulties ahead and are concerned about their status as a minority in post-war Iraq — particularly given several recent, unfortunate acts of anti-Christian violence, including the recent kidnapping and murder of an Assyrian Democratic Movement official in the southern city of Basra and a shooting attack against a bishop in Mosul. It remains difficult to ascertain whether these acts are spontaneous or part of a larger campaign, whether by former members of the regime to intimidate the Assyrian population or by fundamentalist Islamic agitators determined to stoke intercommunal violence. It is thus incumbent upon the American-led Coalition Provisional Authority, particularly in light of the legitimacy recently bestowed upon it by the United Nations Security Council, to provide for the safety of the Assyrian community.
The security concerns of the Assyrians extend beyond harassment and attacks. Assyrians face the possibility of institutionalized discrimination and persecutions should Sharia, or Islamic law, become the guiding principle of the new Iraqi polity. With a population that is perhaps 90% Muslim, it is not inconceivable that a large number of Iraqis would like to see their Islamic heritage incorporated into the basic framework of the new government, as has happened in post-Taliban Afghanistan. The task facing both the provisional authority and the Iraqi Governing Council, however, is to make sure that Iraq's Christian minority does not needlessly feel sidelined. Such a balancing act will be delicate, but it is not impossible.
It will not be easy, of course, to draft a centralized legal framework that will be amenable to all of Iraq's citizens. This is particularly true given the ethnic and religious cleavages within Iraqi society, not to mention the fact that the country is emerging from decades of totalitarianism. The provisional authority should do its best to guide the process of turning power over to the Iraqi people without seeming heavy-handed and unfairly critical of some aspects of the emerging political system that might seem culturally foreign to Western observers. It must also be sensitive to the concerns of the Shi'ites, who constitute a plurality of the population and were repressed by the Sunni-dominated Ba'ath regime.
The Bush administration, for its part, should now do as much as possible to make all Iraqis, regardless of ethnicity or religion, feel included in the new polity. Given that ethnic strife and persecution of Christians and Jews were hallmarks of the nominally secular Ba'ath regime, the creation of a pluralistic Iraq should be endorsed by all members of the international community who wish to see a state at peace with its neighbors. An Iraq in which Assyrian rights are not adequately protected will likely not be the democratic, pluralistic society that is needed in the region.
[Z-info: Jonathan Eric Lewis, author of
the Middle East Quarterly policy paper "Iraqi Assyrians:
Barometer of Pluralism," is completing a forthcoming study
of ethnic minorities in the Middle East. This article appears
in the 28 November issue of Forward.com.]
THE RESURRECTION OF OUR NATION
As Saddam’s gigantic statue toppled to the ground, it suddenly dawned on me that my long and yearning desire to return to my homeland was about to be fulfilled. And so it was, I stepped foot inside Iraq again after almost 37 years. Words will fail me if I attempt to describe the emotions that overcame me; it was a journey that I shall never forget.
It is important to stress at the outset, that I am not a member of, nor owe allegiance to any political organisation, moreover, what I am about to portray is an accurate reflection of my experiences during my visit to the homeland.
I traveled with one or two burning questions that begged answers. What of our nation’s future in Iraq, and were our political organisations well prepared to face the challenges that our tomorrows will inevitably bring? Obviously the million-dollar question being: Are our people living in Iraq proponents or opponents of unification under the compound name AssyrianChaldean, or perhaps there was an alternative, another manifesto being touted by another political organisation that offered more hope and made more sense that we in the Diaspora were oblivious to.
On Sunday October 12, I went with a friend who had traveled with me from the United Kingdom to visit Romeo Hakkari, Secretary-General of the Bet Nahrain Democratic Party at his BNDP HQ in Ankawa. We were warmly greeted, sat down, drank tea and talked politics. He started off by emphasizing that he bore no grudges towards Yonadam Kanna, that they enjoyed good relations and that their only difference was one based on policy - BNDP’s rejection of the compound name. I asked him what he thought of Sargon Dadesho, head of the Assyrian National Congress, and whether he agreed with the deluge of personal attacks directed towards the AssyrianChaldean Representative within the Iraqi Governing Council. I was totally blown over by his response, on the contrary, he said he was furious with Sargon Dadesho and had asked him to stop and told him in no uncertain terms that this was detrimental to our national cause. In fact, he had ceased all forms of communication with Sargon. Were his remarks the politically correct thing to say or did he mean it, only time will tell!
We discussed the upcoming “Chaldean Syrian Assyrian General Conference” (CSAGC) and its significance, “BNDP will not attend, and we will not compromise on the name issue” he said. Allow me to digress; there is no doubt in my mind, that whilst our political parties are at loggerheads with each other, the main beneficiaries are the Kurds, and it is true to say, that it is they that lure and motivate financially certain individuals of our nation to further drive the 450 year old wedge of division through our one and ancient nation. Romeo agreed with me that the status quo was having an adverse effect on our nation, and yet he was unable to table an alternative “unification” plan that would pave the way towards healing the rifts that have existed for centuries and subsequently establish our place in Iraq. I asked his opinion about the level of support the CSAGC enjoyed throughout Iraq, he responded by saying that 80, if not 90% of our nation were against this conference and its objective. This claim I would put to the test, and at that we left in peace, but I was to meet Romeo once again in Baghdad.
Ankawa is a village by and large inhabited by the Chaldeans. I spent a few memorable days there and met with many of the locals. I was welcomed by my people and in my own language; I saw no difference between us! Interestingly, it was those with whom I spoke that pointed this out and they are right, we are one. Until very recently they were unable to talk of unity or of nationalism out of fear of severe repercussions. Now that the conditions in Iraq have changed, now that democracy beckons, all Iraqis are invited to be more forthcoming. Our AssyrianChaldean nation is called upon to rise up to the challenge of re-establishing our just and irrevocable place as one nation, under one national leader in the undisputed land of our forefathers. It would not be far fetched to say that perhaps we are witnessing the prophecy of Isaiah (19: 23-25)* unfold in our time. The “September 11” terrorist attack in the United States prompted President Bush to take the battle to the terrorists and rogue nations. Regime change in Iraq hastily became the official US policy, and the following year in December 2002, the President of the United States added the name of the Assyrian Democratic Movement to receive assistance under the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998. In July 2003 the Iraqi Governing Council was formed and amongst its 25 members was Mr. Yonadam Kanna, Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement. I believe you would agree that the pattern of events thus far corresponds with Isaiah’s prophecy, but another critical part of this prophetic plan would be revealed at the conclusion of the CSAGC.
The day after meeting with Romeo Hakkari, I went to the Assyrian Democratic Movement’s headquarter in Arbil. The first thing that struck me was that the place was buzzing, it was alive and active, certainly a marked contrast to the day before, but I was not about to judge the book by its cover. I needed more and more was to follow. Whilst in the North of Iraq, I went to visit a few AssyrianChaldean villages and cities of Keremlish, Beghdede, Bartilla, Telkef, Nineveh and Kirkuk. I realised that the ADM was more than just a ‘movement’, it is a national institution with its roots firmly embedded in all levels of the AssyrianChaldean nation and out of this sturdy foundation have branched academic societies, schools, cultural organisations, media, armed militia, a democratically structured political leadership and hope. I heard stories of individual acts of valour and sacrifice, spoken by ordinary men and women, young and old, it was at that time that I truly understood the meaning of patriotism, for even when faced with the threat of death, the men of our AssyrianChaldean nation took arms to defend our people in their villages as soon as the war of liberating Iraq had begun, under the command of the Assyrian Democratic Movement. I met with many of our heroes, a point that was repeatedly emphasised to me everywhere I visited was that the ADM had made plans well in advance of the war, “once we heard the American air bombardment begin, my two brothers and I took our weapons and went out to undertake our predetermined assignment, in fact all of our people able to fight in the Nahla district ( Dohuk province) did likewise, not one able youth stayed behind” said one ADM militia member. This was the trend all over Iraq, including Baghdad.
At 3:10 am, on Sunday October 19, the ADM centre in Kirkuk came under a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) attack. On guard outside the ADM centre was the 22-year-old Gevan Diryawish Bille (photograph below taken October 26, seven days after the incident), he described how a fraction of a second before the grenade struck the air conditioning unit 8 feet to the right of his guard spot, he had leaned forward and turned his head to his left facing away from the impact area, this (divine intervention) had saved his life. A mother almost lost her son just as she had lost her husband Diryawish, murdered by the barbaric Baath regime in 1987, I was amazed by the courage of this woman - devout in her faith in our Lord, and make no mistake – it was as her faith through prayers that had saved her son. I asked her if she would deny her son returning to his position with the ADM after recovering from the burns suffered on both hands and face, she looked at me and with a sad and anguished voice uttered: “If our sons do not protect us, who will?” The days of being a national warrior whilst living outside Iraq are over, warriors are today summoned to Iraq, and the face of our warrior Gevan is a reminder to us all in Diaspora of what can happen to those that trumpet their nationalism inside Iraq.
If we are unable to go back to Gevan’s mother with a solemn pledge of protection, at least let us provide this widowed mother of an injured son our best wishes for their future. They deserve and are entitled to determine their future, for it is they and not us that have suffered for so long, and I for one will do my bit to ensure that their misery of years gone by turn to joy in time to come. I ask that you too do your bit.
We must refrain from paying too much attention to the claptrap of Sargon Dadesho and other extremists, the man lives in a bubble and that bubble is about to burst. He is far removed from reality and most of his news are based on “hearsay and innuendo”, my message to Sargon is why don’t you go back to Iraq and smell the reality for yourself. Perhaps that way you’ll afford yourself more credibility when you speak. That is the least you can do for your people, you owe it to them to speak the truth not as you imagine it to be from California but as it is in Iraq.
We all agree that Assyrians and Chaldeans are of one ancestry, one nation but that the passage of time solidified the mold of division, many notables of our nation had in the past chipped away at this division, but ultimately failed. Their failure is not attributed to their lack of dedication and of purpose, but that the prevailing conditions of their time made it literally an impossible task to accomplish. I am convinced that today’s conditions are fertile for the re-birth of our one and indivisible AssyrianChaldean nation, and as I mentioned earlier, the United States was the power that reinforced our demand to be (constitutionally) recognized as the indigenous people of Iraq paving the way forward towards our legitimate national demands. We also know that Ambassador Paul Bremer has told certain separatists from within our nation to unite, and others that have written to him complaining of non-representation, they he totally ignored. So the message is clear, and to quote the immortal motto of the Assyrian National Congress (Sargon Dadesho), “Let us unite and gather the fragments that nothing be lost”. Indeed!
Whilst in Baghdad, I went to visit the Assyrian Patriotic Party (Atranayeh), BNDP, Chaldean National Congress, Beth Nahrain Patriotic Union & ADM. With the exception of BNDP, all the other parties agreed that a national & political formula uniting our nation under one name was essential for our future in Iraq. The General-Secretary of the APP, Mr. Nimrod Baito told me that he was having trouble coming to terms with the compound name. On the other hand knowing as he does the sheer complexity of our nation’s makeup, he agreed that in order to assert ourselves alongside the Arabs, Kurds & Turkemans as equal partners in Iraq, we have no choice but to unite as one AssyrianChaldean nation. We must commend Nimrod Baito and the APP, he was the only one who was willing to remove his party’s political garments and don his national colours for the sake of our nation. For sure, Nimrod has had his ding-dong with Yonadam Kanna, as have all of the above and others, but he cast aside their yesterdays for the benefit of his nation’s future, and for this I say, may God bless you and the members of the Assyrian Patriotic Party!
The CNC & BNPU were not as keen as the APP to settle old scores, but from what I gathered, I am willing to predict that both parties will at some point fall in line with the national trend. A vibrant nation feeds off a multi-party democracy and we should not be seeking anything different, it’s healthy to have diverse political opinions and debate on a range of subjects, but ultimately decisions need to be made and only one must take charge and lead the way.
Whilst respecting our nation’s political status we also need to agree, no matter how bitter the pill is for some to swallow, that for now the Assyrian Democratic Movement is our only real hope of determining our future in Iraq, without them there would have existed a void, without hope, and no future.
An eerie feeling overcame me as I was driven into the huge ADM complex, formerly occupied by Uday Hussein and his infamous Fidayeen Saddam in Baghdad. The main building is surrounded by dozens of smaller buildings (including prison cells) some bombed to rubble during the air campaign, spread throughout a vast area. In fact until it was pointed out to me I had missed seeing the soccer field within the complex. One of the proudest moments of my life was looking up at the main building and seeing the AssyrianChaldean flag swaying from side to side. It truly was a humbling sensation, as I had once only dreamt of such a time.
Before continuing I need to make a very important point clear, especially to the minority extremist element of our nation that wishes to put daylight between our one and indivisible AssyrianChaldean nation. This is the Kurdish policy you are employing, and I will provide two examples of this. During the Iraqi Opposition (IO) Conference in London, December 2002, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in a provocative move after they had formed the Chaldean Union Democratic Party under the leadership of one of its own KDP members, Abdel Lahad Afram, tried in vain to include the Chaldeans as a separate national minority to the Assyrians in the final declaration of the conference. Clearly the intentions of the KDP was to deliver a crushing blow to the aspirations of the ADM by dividing and ultimately weakening our nation and therefore strengthening their desired territorial ambitions. The second example is further testimony via a declaration by the Central Committee of the ADM dated November 8, 2002:
Declaration regarding the stance of the Assyrian Democratic Movement towards the approval by the parliament of the Iraqi Kurdistan region of the plans for constitutional federal republic of Iraq and the constitution of the region of Iraqi Kurdistan:
The parliament of the region of Iraqi Kurdistan discussed the joint federal plan presented by the ruling parties in the region, Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and approved this plan as a proposal during its session of 7th November 2002. Considering that the Assyrian Democratic Movement - through the purple list – together with the two parties established the region’s parliament in 1992 and since the purple list won four seats out of the five seats allocated to our people with their several nomenclatures and according to the founding laws relied upon by the parliament, it is necessary to inform ADM bases, supporters and in general our people together with the friendly and allied forces, Kurdistani, Islamic and Iraqi patriots and the friends of our nation both inside and outside Iraq to be aware of the position of our movement towards this issue and its aspects.
In general, we were hoping that now we are approaching a turning point concerning the future of Iraq, that the position towards the cause of our people in such projects would have taken in to consideration the level of our alliance and long tormenting struggle as fraternal nations, the justice of our cause and the persecutions that have been inflicted on the Assyrian people over centuries. However, based on objective and realistic evaluation of the present situation of our nation and its historical weight and struggle, its right to share and based on deep understanding of current international circumstances and concepts, which is contained in the proposal do not meet the aspirations of our people, but rather are in line with our experiences during the past years, that is to say attempting to marginalize our cause.
The Assyrian Democratic Movement presented a communiqué to the leadership of the two allied parties, who originated the draft constitutions, in response to their request. In that communiqué, we have addressed our reservations and observations, which covered the following:
The proposal suggests that the make-up of the Iraqi nation consists of Arabs and Kurds, considering them to be the “two main nations” and mentioned other nations as “ethnic groups” (this was later amended in parliament as “national groups”) this includes Assyrians and Turkmen, both these descriptions mean inferior nations. This takes much away from them as national rights are not measured by size, particularly in the case of indigenous people and is contrary to the principle of equal national partnership.
The proposal refers to the rights of ethnic nationalities without specifying the details or process of implementation.
The proposal dealt with our people as two different nations (Assyrian and Chaldean) overstepping the historical fact of unity of our people and bypassing the laws of the parliament which are still in effect in the region. Additionally, this is considered to be interference in the internal affairs of our people, known by several different names (Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac). Our nation consists of several different church denominations, Chaldean Catholic, Syriac Catholic and Orthodox, Eastern Assyrian with two calendars, Protestants and others. Regarding this issue, the only point raised by the representative of the Purple List (ADM) whilst parliament was in session and during his discussion with the respected leadership committee of the parliament was in reference to the identification of our people, in which he requested that the word “and” be removed from between Assyrian and Chaldean, as an expression of unity of our people. This was rejected, which means an insistence in dividing our people.
The proposal stated that Iraq consists of Arabic and Kurdish Federals and the regions’ council consists of representatives from the two regions. This eliminates the roles of other nations. We are for an administrative and political Federal system that guarantees the rights of all the people of Iraq, a system which enables all the groups to exercise their unique aspects, strengthening the national character and hence serve Iraqi unity. Additionally, we are for a Federal Council in which all ethnic nationalities are represented. These remarks and others, in our opinion, are complicated points which are not possible to be resolved at this stage especially when it is required that we all stand together for the sake of the desired change that we all seek. Therefore, it was our decision to vote against the proposal.
Our objection to the main issues within the proposal does not mean our rejection of the aspirations of the Kurdish people and their rights to express the formula by which they envisage within the Iraqi national unity. Our movement has accepted, through the purple list, the decision of federalism for the region of Iraqi Kurdistan in parliament in 1992, at the Salah-Al Din conference in 1992 and at the New York conference for Iraqi opposition in 1999 and together with the four Kurdistani parties as part of the Joint Work Committee which was announced recently.
At the same time, we participated in establishing the parliament and its continuation as a legitimate institution in the region, especially during the internal fighting and at other critical stages, to restore unity. This participation and partnership in the democratic process in the region is what gives this experiment a democratic overview, as it reflects the ethnic diversity, fraternity and mutual respect between the ethnic components. We were hoping that the parliament would have stood by the rights of our people and their internal unity.
We, the Assyrian Democratic Movement, promise our Assyrian-Chaldean nation that we shall remain faithful to our principles and political path which we have taken since the establishment of the movement, who’s noble and immortal martyrs contributed to erect its pillars. We will endeavour to strengthen the relations of our people with the fraternal Kurdish nation. We will safeguard our national agenda with all the fraternal nationalities in Iraq, Arab, Kurd and Turkmen and with all the patriotic factions regardless of their ideology for a free democratic Iraq.”
Two interesting points emanate from the above declaration, the first and most obvious is the ADM’s unequivocal rejection of the Kurdish proposal in its entirety and secondly the use of the compound name, albeit slashed. The following month at the IO conference in London the Assyrian G8 unanimously elected Yonadam Kanna as our nation’s representative. Knowing as they did that the ADM’s political path was destined towards unification under the compound name, it puzzles me, particularly in the case of Sargon Dadesho, as to why he did not kick up a fuss back then, surely he had an inkling of what was to be – we all did, the nomenclatural debate had begun in earnest months before the IO conference, and yet he gave his vote of approval to Yonadam Kanna. I personally had a great deal of respect for Sargon, but much of that has been overshadowed by his fascist ranting, to me at least, I cannot discern between AssyriaSat and Iraq’s former Baath TV- biased and totally one-sided news, broadcasting lies, propaganda and devoid of a national agenda.
As I headed towards the Sheraton hotel in Baghdad on the morning of October 22, for the start of CSAGC, I noticed that the Americans had cordoned off the area surrounding the hotel with soldiers and armored vehicles, they screened everyone that entered the hotel compound. Inside the hotel was swarming with people, the main conference hall was packed full which overflowed into the hotel foyers, the numbers were certainly close to a thousand if not more. All of our nations religious denominations were represented, including Sheik Satar Jabar Hallou of the Mandaeans, Ibrahim Al-Jafari of the Iraqi Governing Council and Ambassador Paul Bremer’s representative Patrick Kennedy. Amongst them were political parties, federations, organizations, human rights groups, prominent individuals, technocrats, academics and many more that had come to this historic conference from all corners of the globe. It truly was a representative conference. The main deliberations commenced later that afternoon at the Babel hotel and only the 250 or so delegates were present. It truly was a spectacle to behold, because irrespective of our nation’s rich diversity, the overwhelming consensus is that we are one nation known by various glorious names, and that the time had come to travel together through Iraq’s future as one nation, united under one name and with one common purpose. I trust that the date 24 October 2003 will be marked in our nation’s calendar as the day of national resurrection, as it was on this very day that the conference determined and declared (see Zinda Magazine volume IX, issue 34 dated 27 October 2003) our unity as one indivisible AssyrianChaldean nation.
I am convinced that Isaiah foresaw this day and we are living it, day to day – our nation’s history in the making. Jesus taught us that a tree is known by its fruit, and if we are to justly examine the ADM, we should all be able to recognize and persevere to preserve this magnificent tree as it continuously produces the fruit of our sustenance nurtured by the blood, sweat and toil of its martyrs and present day vanguards.
For what it’s worth, I would like to offer some sound advice. Before we dive headfirst into the Kurdish trap of inner conflict, we need to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff, discern fact from fiction, and know right from wrong, and this can only be established whilst living inside our homeland and under the same life threatening conditions that the likes of Yonadam Kanna have grown very much accustomed to. It’s true that seeing is believing, I saw and became impressed – surpassing my expectations of the divinely inspired Assyrian Democratic Movement. I will not pluck numbers out of thin air as some randomly do, but I will say that the overwhelming majority of our people in Iraq subscribe to the unity of our nation under one name. There is no conspiracy and no dark sinister forces lurking in the shadows seeking our destruction - what is left after 2600 years of corrosion, resulting from genocide, persecution and other forms of inhumane cruelty committed against our nation to be destroyed. This is uniting and gathering the fragments so that nothing is lost evermore of one proud and ancient people. This is about staking our undeniable claims in Iraq as one, this is about strength through unity, this is nation building!
MAR DELLY ELECTED AS THE NEW PATRIARCH OF THE CHALDEAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
(ZNDA: Baghdad) The synod of 22 Chaldean bishops today elected Mar Emmanuel Delly, 76, as the new patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church whose See remains in Baghdad, Iraq.
The Synod was called on by Pope John Paull II to Vatican this week to break a deadlock in the choice of a successor to Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid, who died in July in Beirut, Lebanon. Mar Bidawid was 81.
Mar Delly took the title of Emmanuel III Delly as the spiritual leader of over one and half million Chaldean-Assyrians around the world. Patriarch Yousef VI Emmanuel II Thoma was consecrated in 1900 and led the Chaldean Church until 1947. The first patriarch with the title of Emmanuel was the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East Emmanuel I who shepherded the Assyrian Church between 937 and 960 A.D., some 600 years before the splitting of his church into Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church.
The new patriarch was born in Telkaif, (Ninveh) Iraq in 1926, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1952 in Rome where he studied theology and canon law. He was ordained a bishop in 1963 and named an archbishop in 1967. He served the last two patriarch (Mar Paulus Sheikho and Mar Raphael Bidawid) as their vicar, for all the years of his episcopal ministry.
Mar Emmanuel III Delly has a doctorate in theology and is a specialist
in the history and the traditions of the Eastern Churches - the
Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church in particular.
He was a consultor of the Commission for the Revision of the Code
of Eastern Canon Law and of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious
POPE JOHN PAUL RECEIVES NEW CHALDEAN PATRIARCH
(ZNDA: Vatican) In order to manifest communion between the Chaldean Catholic Church and the universal Church (Roman Catholic Church), Mar Emmanuel III Delly asked the Pope to recognize his appointment as the new Patriarch. John Paul II granted the recognition, and on Wednesday received the new patriarch.
In a letter to the Pope, in which the new patriarch requested "ecclesial communion," he also expressed the fidelity of the Chaldean Church to Rome.
"With the help of God, I will do what is possible for the unity of the Church in this tragic situation in which the Middle East finds itself and, in particular, Iraq," the patriarch wrote.
On Wednesday afternoon, Pope John Paul received the members of
the Synod of the Chaldean Church and said that "harmony is
even more necessary when contemplating your land, which today is
in greater need than ever of authentic peace and tranquility."
ZOWAA HOLDS CEREMONIAL FUNERAL TO HONOR MARTYR SARGON NANO
(ZNDA: Damascus) More than 500 Syrian and Iraqi Assyrians attended Sunday, Nov. 23rd funeral ceremony held by the Assyrian Democratic Movement at a church in Damascus, the Syrian capital, to honor Assyrian martyr Sargon Nano Murado, Zowaa’s representative in Basra.
The Associated Press and international media reported Murado’s killing on Nov. 18 and said thatthe Human Rights without Frontiers regarded Martyr Nano’s killing as a war crime.
Mr. Emanuel Khoshaba, Zowaa’s representative in Damascus, told the crowd in his speech delivered at the funeral ceremonies that Zowaa was “ready to sacrifice everything valuable to gain the legitimate rights of our people,” stressing that the ADM, “will stay the course in defending our people’s rights in the homeland.”
Among the attendance was Khudaida, the son of Agha Patrous, the Assyrian 1920s militant leader who fought fierce battles against the Turks, Kurds and Iranians to save the lives of thousands of unarmed Assyrians.
Also, attending were Jamil Hanna Khori, a representative of the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO), and Naramsin, the representative of Bet-Nahrin Freedom Party (BNFP), which has been at odds with Zowaa for a long time. Naramsin’s attendance was seen by Assyrian observers as a gesture of good-will.
Both Khori and Naramsin delivered speeches at the ceremony and
passed their parties’ condolences to Zowaa on the killing
KHUDAIDA, SON OF AGHA PETROS, VISITS SYRIA & LEBANON
(ZNDA: Damascus) “I will try to play the role of the messenger of love for my people in the name of my father Agha Patrous,” Khudaida told Zinda Magazine in Damascus, as he embarked on a two day tour of Syria and Lebanon.
Mr. Emanuel Khoshaba, Zowaa’s representative in Damascus and Khudaida d’Baz visited many dignitaries in both countries. They were received by his Holiness Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Zakka Iwas in Syria and the Maronite Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Sfeir in Lebanon and thanked them for their “positive” stand toward the rights of the Chaldo-Assyrian people in Iraq and their participation in the Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac conference held in Baghdad between 22 and 24 October.
Khudaida was warmly welcomed by both His Beatitude Iwas and His Holiness Sfeir, according to Khoshaba, who quoted H.B. Iwas as saying to Khudaida, “I highly appreciate your efforts to unify our people.”
On 24 November, Khoshaba and Khudaida, the latter a citizen of France, discussed with the French Ambassador to Damascu, Vladimir Glassman, the importance of ensuring the Assyrians’ rights in post-war Iraq during a meeting at ADM’s office in Damascus.
This was Khudida’s second visit to Syria and Iraq. During his first visit to Syria in the late 1990s, more than 3000 Assyrians carried his car on their shoulders at Tell Jumaa village on Khabur River for several miles in a show of pride of the late Agha Patrous, who carried his people’s cause in his heart even when he was exiled to France in 1932.
Khudaida, who left for France on 26 November, along with his four
sisters and brother were under house arrest until 1962. He speaks
the Eastern Syriac dialect which he learned from his mother.
IGC ANNULS CITIZENSHIP LAW BASED ON PERSIAN ORIGIN
(ZNDA: Baghdad) According to Kurdish sources, last week Iraq’s Governing Counsel annulled Revolutionary Command Decree 666 which banned Iraqi citizenship for Iraqis of "Iranian" origin.
The decree was enacted in May 1980 by Saddam Hussein and affected many whose citizenship and property was seized before they were deported to Iran. Assyrians of Iranian origin, arriving from Urmie and Khuzistan were affected by the ban beginning with the eight-year-old war between Iran and Iraq from 1980 until 1988.
The Governing Council has established a subcommittee to lay down a new nationality law protecting citizens' rights.
SALAM YALDIKO OF THE CHALDEAN NATIONAL FEDERATION ON ASHUR TV
(ZNDA: Chicago) On its November 22 program, Ashur TV conducted an interview with Mr. Salam Yaldiko, Board of Directors of Chaldean National Federation (CNF), live via phone.
The interviewer asked Mr. Yaldiko about his thoughts regarding the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Conference that took place in Baghdad between November 22 and 24.
Mr. Yaldiko expressed greater hopes for Chaldo-Assyrians after the liberation of Iraq. He stated that the majority of the Chaldean-Assyrian people, as many as 90%, are supportive of the idea of unity under one name and working together in order to secure their rights in future Iraq. Mr. Yaldiko stressed that Chaldo-Assyrians must have a place in the future of Iraq and this can only be achieved through unity.
A question was asked about why Nineveh plain was chosen as the self-administrative region for the Chaldo-Assyrians at the Baghdad conference. Mr. Yaldiko responded that despite the fact that much of the land in north of Iraq belongs to “our people”, there is a reality on the ground today that we have no option but to accept: “the Kurds control a region they call Kurdistan and have established self-rule for some time. The Mosul plain, meanwhile, has special characteristic and particularity; it is outside their control and most importantly half of our people live in the Nineveh plain. Choosing Nineveh plain as a self-administrative region for the Chaldo-Assyrian people makes sense since there is no potential for any power struggle in that specific region. Chaldo-Assyrians make up the majority there. We are not forgetting our people in other regions throughout Iraq of course; the rights of all our people will be protected in the new Iraq system.”
Regarding the teaching of Syriac, Yaldiko stated that “our people outside the No-Fly zone have always been looking up to the Syriac-teaching experience within the special region in north of Iraq. Our people in the Nineveh plain want to implement that experience in their own villages as well. They are already preparing themselves for next year's school year. Of course, the Iraqi Governing Council has already approved the rights of the various ethnic groups to teach their language and has issued its decision on November 5th. Many families in the Nineveh plain have already begun to register their kids in schools that will implement the Syriac-speaking experience, already implemented within the special zone. There was a possibility to start the process this year outside what was known as the No-Fly zone that is, however, the Turkomen and Kurds were not ready to have their schools, teachers, and curriculum ready in time for the school opening day; we were however.”
Mr. Yaldiko stated that groups from Detroit and Chicago, including the Chaldean National Federation, which had a special place and presence at the conference, are working hard to convey what they have experienced through their recent trip to Iraq. They will be using all means possible to inform our people in the Diaspora about the latest news, including the Voice of Chaldeans station, which was established 20 years ago.
(ZNDA: Chicago) During its November 22nd program, Ashur TV aired an interview with Mr. Aladin Khamis, Vice President of the Assyrian American National Federation (AANF), live via phone.
Mr. Khamis began by stressing that the AANF attended the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac conferencein Baghdad through an official delegation that included:
1. Aladin Khamis, Vice President, Chicago, IL.
The AANF in fact, said Mr. Khamis was one of the organizing teams of the conference.. He stated that there were some 1,000 to 1,200 participants in the opening ceremony; it was so tightly packed that people were blocking the aisles and side walks of the grand hall.
After Mr. Khamis delivered his speech at the conference and left the hall, the Assyrian group from Iran intercepted him. That Iranian Assyrian delegation included:
1. Dr. Ronald Thomas Zadeh
The group was surprised by the presence of the AANF at the conference. Dr. Thomas Zadeh and Mr. Khnanesho told Mr. Khamis that Mr. Carlo Ganjeh, the AUA's America’s Secretary, visited Iran before the opening of the conference and informed the Assyrians in Iran that the AANF was not attending the Baghdad Conference. However, the group decided to attend regardless of what others would decide.
Mr. Khamis continued to state that Mr. Ganjeh had no right to say that the AANF was not going to attend and that Senator John Nimrod had directed Mr. Ganjeh to say that. Mr. Khamis emphasized that Mr. Ganjeh was not part of the AANF; therefore, he should have not made that comment.
Mr. Khamis was very impressed with what he had witnessed in his trip
to Iraq, which he had visited several times before and after its liberation.
He pointed to the fact that before the overthrow of Saddam's regime
the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) projects or activities were
concentrated in north of Iraq; however, today after the liberation
of Iraq the ADM activities encompass all of Iraq, from the northern
city of Zakho to Basra in the south. Therefore, he added, the assistance
and help today is needed more than ever.
IRAN'S MINORITIES & THE BLOOD MONEY
(ZNDA: Yazd) Among its population of 70 million, Iran has about 25,000 Jews, 100,000 Christians and 60,000 adherents of Zoroastrianism, which was the religion of the Persian Empire before the Muslim conquest in the seventh century.
While they have been through troubling times since the 1979 Islamic revolution -- the government has acknowledged executing 17 Jews, often on charges of spying for Israel.
Despite their small numbers, the three groups -- "recognized minority religions" under the 1979 constitution -- are guaranteed five seats in the 290-member parliament. Jews and Zoroastrians get one seat each, Armenian Christians two, and Chaldean and Assyrian Catholics share one seat.
They have their own schools, as well as churches, synagogues and temples. Unlike Iran's Muslims, men and women of these minority faiths are permitted to dance together in their clubs and to serve liquor -- as long as no Muslims are admitted to the premises.
Another major step forward may come with the ending of one of Iran's most egregious forms of discrimination -- unequal status for minorities in the payment of "blood money" as compensation for victims of violent crime.
Under the system, the amount legally owed by a perpetrator to the victim's family is just 1/13 of the amount due to Muslims.
Iranian law retains an old Islamic definition of blood money as one of the following: 100 camels, 200 cows, 1,000 sheep, 200 silk dresses, 1,000 gold coins or 10,000 silver coins.
To simplify things, religious authorities have set an inflation-adjusted cash equivalent, which this year is 150 million rials, or $18,750. Because auto and life insurance coverage is rare in Iran, the ability to collect blood money can be vital for citizens who lose a family member.
A bill to eliminate the discrepancy between Muslims and non-Muslims is winding its way tortuously through the legislative system -- after being vetoed twice by the powerful 12-member Guardian Council as un-Islamic -- and may become law by the end of this month.
Western governments and human rights groups have pressed Iran to approve the bill, and the equally powerful Expediency Council, which consists of senior clerics and former top politicians and has final say over disputes between government bodies, is expected to approve a compromise under which Khamenei will decide on a revised payment formula.
"For sure, this bill will not be rejected in the Expediency Council," said Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, a cleric in the city of Qom who is close to Khamenei. "The supreme leader has expressed his support for it. There is a fatwa determining that blood money should be equal."
Said Leon Davidian, an Armenian Christian member of parliament, "We have received assurances from the supreme leader's office that the bill will be approved, and if that occurs, it would be a big step for making minorities feel more comfortable here in Iran."
Iranian women also will not benefit from the blood money reform. They receive only half the payment due Muslim men (or 1/26 if they are female members of the three minority religions).
A group of female legislators is campaigning to equalize the amounts. They say that while the system may have made sense centuries ago in a nonindustrial society, in which the death of a man spelled the loss of a family's entire income, it is unjust for women in contemporary Iran.
"The issue of minorities and blood money is very closely linked to the issue of women," said Mohsen Esmaeli, one of 12 members of the Guardian Council who voted to veto the bill. "There are important precedents that we must be very careful about because this could have many bad effects."
(ZNDA: Sydney) Two warrants have been issued for two Assyrian men in Sydeny, Australia wanted for the murder of another Assyrian man whose death was the catalyst for a crime explosion in Sydney's south-west.
Dimitri Debaz was shot dead during a brawl outside the Playhouse Hotel in Sefton in December of 2002.
Police said the murder had sparked a string of reprisal shootings and kidnappings.
Task force Gain detectives today took the unusual step of naming the two murder suspects who have been on the run for almost a year.
They are searching for 27-year-old Raphael Joseph, better known as "Hussony", and 25-year-old Raymond Youmaran.
Detective Superintendent Mark Henney said the men had been able to avoid arrest, and it was believed some members of the Assyrian community may have information as to their whereabouts.
"We urge the Assyrian community to co-operate with police in finding these wanted men," Det Supt Henney said.
Investigators believe Hussony may have fled to either Queensland or Melbourne while Mr. Youmaran may still be in Sydney.
Police warned the public the men may be armed and are considered
CALIFORNIA BILL PUSHES ASSYRIAN ROLE IN IRAQ
(ZNDA: Sacramento) Assyrian people should have a role in shaping Iraq's new government, California legislators declared in a resolution last spring.
On Nov. 20, one of the resolution's co-authors, Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian, R-Stockton, presented a framed copy of the legislation to a Turlock gathering of the Assyrian National Council of Stanislaus.
The resolution recounts 6,753 years of Assyrian culture, which is distinct from Arab and Jewish traditions in the Middle East.
It tells of many years of oppression of Assyrians and of efforts today to exclude them from the Iraqi National Council.
The resolution states that "considering the ancestral history of the Assyrians in Iraq, it is a matter of urgent and enduring importance that Assyrians be given a seat of recognition at the table during negotiations regarding the post-conflict restructuring in Iraq."
AN UNFORGETTABLE EVENING IN SYDNEY
Do not miss this unique evening, which for the first time in this country shall honour the talents of our poets and singers together, making for an enjoyable time. All profits from this event will be sent to needy Assyrians in the homeland.
To purchase tickets please contact the Assyrian Sports and Cultural Club (9727-8808), Mr. Alfred Mansour (0408-329-880 or 9823-9888) or Mr. Dean Bet-Lahdek – (0414-250-911).
VENUE: Assyrian Sports and Cultural Club
ASSYRIAN AID SOCIETY- AUSTRALIA INFORMATION NIGHT
Sydney’s Assyrian community is invited to an important information night to hear about the current situation of our people in Iraq and the present role of the Assyrian Aid Society throughout Iraq. The keynote speaker, the Assyrian Aid Society-Australia President Dr. Said Stephan, will discuss his visit to Iraq in October-November and his participation in the Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian General Conference in Baghdad. A video and pictures of Dr Said’s visit will also be screened.
This information night is a must for anyone concerned and interested in the plight of the Assyrian community in Iraq.
VENUE: Assyrian Sports and Cultural Club
This CD is about roots. Imagine a people without music, language, writing, and all art in general. An empty shell with no pearl. The music, and particularly the singing in this CD, comes from the ancient culture of Mesapotamia. Its people and its language are the direct decendants of indigenous people known today as Assyrian; not to be confused with the country of Syria. The ancient empire of Mesapotamia ended in 612 B.C. due to civil war. The internal chaos permitted neighbouring rulers to take over the land. Since then the indigenous people have never regained their homeland, and have been persecuted by successive regimes. They fearlessly walked into the furnaces of fire for their mother land - in the words of an Aramaic poet. In the past three thousand years they have suffered genocide, deportation, exile and enslavement. They have been denied all rights, and discriminated against by many nations. Regardless of what has happened they have kept their culture, customs, ancient language of Aramaic, music, poetry, and dance alive through a written and oral tradition. Thus, they have maintained their cultural identity.
The singing on this CD shows many different styles of traditional music which has been passed down orally from generation to generation.
Rafael Fern?ndez Suarez, a Jerezano gypsy scholar contends that the ancestor of flamenco singers was a Mesopotamian singer probably named a ?gheta?- which in ancient Egypt became a ?jitheo? or ?kitheo?. He claims the first gypsy tribes in Andaluc?a had Mesopotamian roots. He will be publishing a book on this theme.
This project began when Jookoe moved, with his family, as a refugee to Chicago, at the age of 14. The musicians in the community he was part of played their own ethnic music, but he began playing the blues guitar as well. Later on, flamenco drew his interest. As he was listening to flamenco singers such as Juan Telega, Terremoto, Aguajete, his grandmother commented the voices ?are of our heritage?, the same as those of the traditional singing of Rawey, Diwani, Liliana, Bilia. Comparing a tape of his grandmother, made of village singing in these styles, Jookoe was convinced there was a link. He travelled to Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, a cradle of flamenco, and took this tape to Manuel Morao, a well-respected flamenco singer. Manuel Morao also immediately drew the comparison between this music and flamenco, wanting to know who the people were. Jookoe replied his people were direct descendants of the people of Mesopotamia. Manuel Morao remarked that this discovery would stop all debate about the original sources of flamenco, and the gypsy people themselves.
Included with this CD is a booklet that discusses in more detail the evidence behind this thesis. A special ?thank you? goes to Moraito Chico for all his patience and hard work. Another thank you to all the artist that have lent their voices making this three year project possible. We hope that listeners will enjoy this CD from beginning to end. Many singers who have contributed to this CD are no longer with us. This CD is a tribute to them and their people, their voices will be with us forever.
To listen or purchase this CD: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jookoo
This is our largest music sale of the year:
THE STORY OF MADINAT AL THAWRA IN BAGHDAD
Nuri Al-Said was a monster who dominated the last decades of political
ascendancy in Baghdad prior to the declaration of the Republic on
14 July 1958 (the Baghdadi Bastille day), by the Free Officers of
General Abd Al- Karim Qassim.
On 14 July 1958 the house of Nuri Al-Said, the Prime Minister was besieged by the military ‘revolutionaries’ but he managed to escape disguised in a black chador. He was later discovered and instantly shot by soldiers but some dispute this story.
His body was taken to Qassim to verify his death at the Ministry of Defence where Qassim had established his new HQ. Then his body was hanged at one side of the front of the Ministry of Defence and that of the Hijazi crown prince the notorious Abd Al-Ilah on the other side.
The angry jubilant mob at the front went out of control, they reached the bodies and started lynching them from street to street and later the bodies were cut into pieces. I am not gloating here but this is written in the history of that country named Baghdad.
Towards the end of his rule there circulated a joke in Baghdad that Nuri Al-Said, the Prime Minister of the decadent Hijazi rule invited the American Ambassador for a sightseeing tour of Baghdad. After traversing the centre of Baghdad the two moved toward the suburb that was familiar with the poverty-stricken populace where they lived in very sub-human conditions. The Ambassador was appalled to see such living beings in mud and reed huts.
The Ambassador asked Nuri Al-Said about this misery, then Nuri Al-Said giggled and said Mr Ambassador don’t take things seriously because this is not the real life but it is done by design as we are making a movie film showing our lives under the Ottomans.
I was a boy at the time of the declaration of the Republic and
the populace seemed overjoyed and taken by events but virtually
the republican sweep lasted only a few months and then the first
republic started to teeter.
Qassim never showed the leadership the nation anticipated as he did not venture out of the Ministry of Defence in all the years of his rule. He became a lame duck ruler.
In one of the new projects he linked one end of the Tigris river to another via a canal where the river form a loop around Baghdad naming it The Army Canal and started resettling those poor of the suburbs in a massive but simple housing area along the canal. He named that quarter of Baghdad as Madinat Al Thawra or the City of the Revolution-after the coup d’etat of 14 July.
Those poor people became staunch supporters of Qassim and in some national occasions they would turn to central Baghdad and the zeal tops up in front of the Ministry of Defence shouting Mako Zaeem Illa Karim (no leader but Qassim).
With the fall of Qassim in 1963 and the victory of Pan Arabists shocking waves were sent to these lower classes of Madinat Al Thawra. They were taunted as Communists and Qassim’s supporters-a deriding remark by the Sunni ruling towards these Shiites.
In 1967 the poor of Madinat Al Thawra had enough of suffering so they formed a representative delegation to meet the President of the Republic Abd Al Rahman Aref.
In that meeting these poor Shiites spoke about their grievances at being Shiites and at being labelled as Communists and/or Qassimites. They continued that the problem is the name of their Quarter that is giving them the bad name. Abd Al Rahman Aref although a military man was not able to run a primary school let alone a tough nation and in that meeting it was agreed to change the name of Madinat Al Thawra to Hay Al Rafidain or Madinat Al Rafidain. I was at the University of Baghdad at the time and the name started being used in a limited way and mostly in the press but the public continued to use the old name.
In 1968 a Bedouin from around Tikrit (formerly a Christian town before ransacking by Muslims) with no career in his life at all takes power and establishes himself as shultana over Baghdad. He had given himself all the existing top powers civil and military the state has apart from that of God’s representative on earth. One day he appoints a minister by a decree and the following day he would execute that minister by another decree. The first thing this shultana khatha did was that he ordered all around him to call him SAYEDI (my master) and the one who fails would be flayed.
In 1975 I was at the University of Baghdad for the second time and I decided to go on a bus trip inside Madinat Al Thawra.
I found the area deprived and home to poor lower class people where crime rate is high and population growth is fast and add to this the social life is non-existent. After sunset a man feels scared to walk let alone a woman.
In 1978 when I left Baghdad it was still Madinat Al Thawra but
with Saddamification of the nation that poor quarter of Baghdad
was renamed as Saddam City in the same way like Saddam Airport,
Saddam Hospital, Saddam Stadium etc.
Overnight and the name of that city is unofficially changed again to Sadr City a name taken after Mohammed Baqer Al Sadr, the founder of the Daawa Islamia Party, an anti Christians group and that is Shiite by nature. Al Sadr was butchered by Saddam.
Presently the leader of Islamic Daawa sits with a Mshihaya and a Communist and with others form a council of shikhtane to run a tough nation of 25m people. What a joke.
Madinat Al Thwara now a sprawling quarter with 2m population, but in reality is not a city but a nightmare for any future administration. The name may have changed now and even may change after but the reality of this city is sad from the day of its foundation.
"Democracy refuses to think strategically unless and until compelled to do so for purposes of defense." (H.J. Mackinder).
The sudden outburst of research papers and news items, some of them fabricated, a great number duly authenticated, and some posted merely for sheer pleasure of awakened and charred up expatriates of Iraq-be they Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, and, last but not least religious denominations, ranging from Catholic Chaldeans to Yezidis, are filling up both web screens, press and media.
At first it was international security. Then, suddenly the criteria changed its course to liberation. Now the charts art calling for simulated democracy. But, wait. This dreaded word 'democracy' has to wait until a prerequisite is fulfilled. Reconstruction is what has to take precedence over democracy.
Hence, from the The White House to Foggy Bottom, via McLean, Virginia,
to The Whitehall and 10 Downing Street via MI I, II, III and V,
the heads are scrambling to oblige Iraq with a working constitution,
enmeshed in democracy.
This paper is not produced for academic studies or for academicians. Its intent is simply that of finding out the truth. In other words, it is a research paper. An academician thinks of a relation of moral and aesthetic values, while a researcher is only interested in molecular intensity of an effort, hence, the latter finds the work of academician not only irrelevant, but thinks of it as an impediment.
No Constitution-and precisely Democratic-has to adhere to a religion. Obviously, most constitutions are based on millennia-old religious rites and ideals, but it is all a constitution must bare. Once religious dogmas are inserted into any part of a constitution, it, thus becomes authoritarian, hence, imperfect and undemocratic.
The Governing Council of Twenty-Five members, although not democratic
in its scope and aspect, is irrelevant at this stage, since this
Council is a Transitory Governing Body, and its effectiveness shall
be terminated in the near future.
Of course, this system is ideal, but not practical in a country such as Iraq.
Iraq is an ethnically divided nation. Never mind that a great majority happens to be Moslem-divided into two sects-Sunni and Shi'a. There are two other major nationalities, namely the Kurds and the Assyrians. Then come Catholics, members of Chaldean faith, Yezidis, Jewish, and a few other denominations.
Since Iraqi population is subdivided in disproportion, there is no straight line to enable minority nationalities to be represented in its governing chores. International suffrage-a preponderant element of democracy-shall have to be altered, since most if not all the representatives elected will come from Shi'a or Sunni faiths, a few from Kurds, and practically none from Assyrians and others.
The biggest problem is not to divide power between Shi'as and Sunnis. That is easy because they are both Arabs and Moslems. This day and age, only few skirmishes erupt between these two faiths. Otherwise, both Shi'as and Sunnis have been living in peace for many centuries.
The dilemma of Iraq is Kurd, and to a lesser extent, Assyrian.
The Kurd is Moslem. The Kurd is also of Sunni faith. However, the Kurd shall never submit to any other nationality. And, why should he? No less than 2-3 million Kurds populate Iraq alone. Kurdish aims and aspirations are also bolstered from outside of Iraq. There are Kurds in Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. All together, the Kurds number some 20-25 million souls. The Kurds fiercely nationalistic people and they have proven their nationalistic aspirations for millennium. They want to speak their language. They desire geographic demarcations of their territory and they would like to police their own security apparatus.
The best solution in Iraq would then be to enact a Constitution recognizing territorial integrity of the Kurds, with their own administration and geographic demarcations. In other words: Kurdish Autonomous Region-if not Republic. The solution of the Kurdish dilemma in Iraq shall also solve the problem as to how to deal with the Assyrian indigenous population.
Although diminished in recent seven decades, ever since World War I, a great many of the Assyrians sought exile throughout the world, due to national persecution-not religious though. Assyrians are also fiercely nationalistic, and this nationalism combined with their Christian faith, enables them to retain their own culture, language and literature. On the other hand, Assyria was an Autonomous State for almost five centuries under the Ottoman conquest. This Autonomy of Assyria or 'Millat Syhstem' as it was known in the Ottoman hierarchy was par with other nationalities, e.g., Romanians, Bulgarians, and Serbs among them. The Assyrian status of Autonomy has never been dissolved. It only has been shelved by the defunct League of Nations, in the 1920's.
Once the Autonomous Regions with geographic demarcations have been negotiated, most, if not all other non-Moslem denominations will fall in place with either the Assyrian or Kurdish Autonomous Regions.
But, Iraq is headed toward a semi-Theocratic State, if not totally Theocratic. An elaborate echelon of international and local jurists shall convene and present the non-Moslem minority with promises of justice and freedom of religion. This may work fine with religious groups, however, it is-and ought to be-vehemently rejected by the Assyrians, since they are indigenous population of Iraq.
Ideally, justice should be done between nations, whether they, be great or small, precisely as it is proper that there should be justice between men, whatever the difference of their positions or faith.
Consequently, It is not proper or recommended-not only at this time-but, ever, to contemplate injecting religion into a workable Constitution of Iraq.
No nationalities, nor religious groups, and, particularly, no international organizations under the tutelage of their respected governments should anticipate a smooth transition to Democracy in Iraq, if they cave in to the slightest doze of theocrats or religions.
Foggy Bottom and Whitehall have been brandishing the word 'Freedom' for Iraqi people, for the past few months. Now that supposedly they have been freed, give them options of liberty and justice to choose their path. Just as Bosnian and Albanian rights were restored at the expense of the Serbs, the same rule must be diligently applied in Iraq toward its smaller nationalities.
There is a de facto-if not yet de jure territorial provinces of Kurdistan. They shall remain so, and no power on earth could change that. Hence, the Assyrians deserve the same as their neighbors, and must be granted the same territorial rights as the Kurds. This is when freedom takes roots. This is when liberty of the mind bears fruition for the liberty of life.
Assyrians are not interested in religious or social freedom. This has been promised and tried for several centuries, if not millennia, and it didn't work. They seek only geographically demarcated and duly registered by International Body as well as the Iraqi Constitution to be, territorial rights just like the Kurds and the Arabs. The Assyrians eschew national freedom above all else.
A prominent 19th Century British lawyer, Charles Butler said: "The best decisions are not sold nor bought."
[Z-info: Mr. Ivan Kakovitch is the author of a recently published book "Mount Semele". This book depicts the history of Iraq, from 1915 through 1933, and the struggles of the Kurds and the Assyrians for their rights wrested out, firstly, by the Ottomans, then by the British, and lately by the Arab nationalists. The novel describes in detail the lives and the battles of the Kurds and the Assyrians, and the latter's final battles culminating in the Semele Massacre of 1933].
AN INTEVIEW WITH SARGON DONABED
Mr. Sargon Donabed, 24, is a PhD student in Syriac/Aramaic Studies at the University of Toronto and a third generation Kharput Assyrian-American. Recently the Assyrian Academic Society printed Mr. Donabed’s book “Remnants of Heroes – The Assyrian Experience”. Mr. Doanbed followed the path of his ancestors who fled the town of Kharput (now Elazig, located in northern Tur Abdin in Turkey) to New England escaping the oppression of the Turks and Kurds in the early 20th Century.
After meeting Sargon this summer at the Assyrian Festival in Augsburg (Germany) and at the 70th Assyrian American National Convention in Chicago, the staff of www.auf.nu decided to learn more about this Assyrian scholar and his work.
auf.nu: Sargon, when did you start researching the history of your ancestors?
SD: I was born in the United States. When I was 15. I lived in Boston, Massachusetts (US) away from Assyrians and really had a longing for some place to belong. The next few years I guess I did a bit of soul searching and found out that I belonged nowhere. I had nothing, but a memory of glory, and a name which bore greatness…but it was all fleeting. I read my history and was proud, and sad. Proud of our past accomplishments, but sad for what we have been reduced to. So I read my history, started speaking my language (my father being a “Jacobite”, my mother half “Nestorian” and half “Chaldean Catholic”) and started searching for a purpose in life; something that I could do to help my people. The one thing that was never a question was that I was an Assyrian. It was never an issue in our family. My brother Ninos and I never thought twice about it.
auf.nu: What made you decide to write a book?
SD: I had been writing the book for a while. It was part of my History thesis as an undergraduate. From there it evolved into something more; especially with the help and encouragement of a great friend, Firas Jatou. There was another factor as well. The thing for me was that not only did non-Assyrians not know about Kharput, even my own people had forgotten. I mean think…have you ever heard a song reminiscing about Kharput? I never have, and it really bothered me. I wanted to tell the story of these people, of my family, and help others to remember what makes a person Assyrian. It’s more than just speaking Assyrian or going to parties and dancing.
auf.nu: You went personally to the village of your ancestors, Kharput, this summer - what impression do you have from that trip and did it influence the book itself or your own feelings towards it?
SD: The only feeling I remember vividly was anger. I was sad and downtrodden definitely, but angry more than anything else. I was mad that no one in the world cared that my people were dying, that my culture was being eradicated. More even, I was mad at my own Assyrian people who cannot even figure out WHAT THEY ARE! I felt sick to my stomach realizing their descendents listened to outdated biblical ideas and followed creeds of Middle Eastern political parties, which would see our heritage erased. Why not love for your culture and love for your God. Why do they have to be at ends? To think that after all this, our churches promote non unity, scholars aid them to make themselves feel important, and my culture is left squirming in the mud because some ‘genius’ decides that he wants to be Arameanian, Chaldanian or some such nonsense.
auf.nu: What were the reasons for the fact that the Kharput-Assyrians were so active in the field of Assyrian Nationalism? Maybe you can also name us a few famous individuals.
SD: Prof. Ashur Yousouf, Captain Abraham Yousuf, David Barsum (Perley), Francis Hoyen, even Farid Nuzha’s family was originally from Kharput, though he was born in Hamah, Syria. But the reasons they were so active…First they had a love for their culture that was unmatched at that time. Well one is definitely education. Some of the Kharput Assyrians had a great deal of education. But I really don’t know. Them being so Assyrian, so far removed from the Nineveh Plains, not speaking Assyrian, surrounded by non-Assyrians…I mean logic would say they would assimilate much quicker. But they didn’t. I suppose they are a statistical anomaly in anthropological circles.
auf.nu: In your book you describe the settlement of those Assyrians in New England in the early 20th Century. What is the situation nowadays like? What happened to this first Assyrian community of the US?
SD: The ones who were not killed in Turkey fled to Armenia, Russia and the United States. Most Kharput Assyrians are third or forth generation in the United States. (In the book you will see how many Assyrians kept alive their culture through songs, poetry, societal work etc.) The few that have not assimilated still work and are living out their lives as Assyrians. Again, it is not solely their fault. It was a hope that future generations would carry one the foundations and structures that they built…unfortunately they didn’t. Our people were more interested in making themselves look good rather than building schools and societies for the continuity and evolution of our people and culture. It’d sad to think most of our people are only living this life in order to go somewhere “better” in the next life. They have forgotten about life about people and things other than their own salvation…to me that borders on blasphemy.
auf.nu: Do you think that this trip back to your own roots changed your own personality in any way?
SD: Well I made the trip to Tur Abdien and Kharput for 2 reasons: to see part of my homeland, specifically my grandparents’ town, and to figure out maybe something about myself. It changed my personality in that I became more focused, and more realistic. To think anything will last forever is nonsense, but to let something wonderful die without fighting is the greatest travesty.
auf.nu: Let us focus on the situation in the Homeland. What kind of support you think is necessary from us here in the Diaspora and what role do you expect the youth to take in this?
SD: Money, Land, and political security. If Assyrians work on obtaining security for those remaining, they will stay and build because they have no fear of potential destruction
Use your money to buy land in our homeland of Ashur. Work with other Assyrians to buy something in a unified cohesive whole. We must get our land back. Secondly, make more trips to Ashur. Not just Tur Abdien, but go to Urmia, Syria, and even more importantly North Iraq. This is important to show our solidarity.
auf.nu: Can you tell us something about the gathering of youngsters from all over the globe at this year’s Assyrian Convention in Chicago?
SD: The failure of the Assyrian parents to make their children realize the importance of reveling in their Assyrian culture will reverberate throughout history. We will continue to pay the price for that mistake many years from now. On the positive side, there was networking. Something we are sorely lacking. If for all other reasons the convention was a failure (and it wasn’t) at the very least we now have a group of people who have come into contact with each other and shared goals and ideas. Chicago Assyrians now have friends throughout Europe. This is wonderful.
auf.nu: How important is this “networking” in your view for the future of our work in the field of Assyrian activism?
SD: It goes without saying. It is one of the greatest problems we have is getting people of a like mind together. Working through ideas and problems. We can no longer afford to work in isolated communities in a world where everything else is going global.
auf.nu: Are there projects that you currently are working on, maybe a second book?
SD: I am currently putting most of my effort into my PhD work here in Toronto. It is quite rigorous and Professor Harrak is very demanding. But the program is great, and I encourage more students to study Syriac/Aramaic Studies just for the simple fact that the field is vastly anti-Assyrian as you know in Germany, England, etc. Many Syriac scholars have seemingly become cultural anthropologists and deem it necessary to make known their feelings toward our people, with NO BASIS IN REALITY. It is sad, thus important that Assyrians enter the field to counteract this naivety.
auf.nu: What is your final Message to the readers of auf.nu?
SD: Firstly stop being so tribal. No one cares what village you came from other than as a reference point. Be proud of your people as a whole.
Have some courage. Don’t be afraid to stand and fight. Let us take our destiny in our own hands for once. Be proactive and not reactive. Make things happen instead of re-acting to things after the fact. Let us dictate the rules of our survival. Surround yourself with true Assyrians who will fight for the cause, and work with them. And lastly, don’t be afraid to bleed for your ideals, for what is RIGHT.
We have remained passive for far too long. Life may be the rose
that everyone sees in bloom, but life is also the thorn just under
the leaves of the stem. It is beautiful, but you can’t get
something beautiful without bleeding from the thorns.
auf.nu: In the Name of the Assyrian Youth in Europe we want to express our happiness about the publication of your book and wish you the very best for your studies and your future as an author!
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